The arrest and detainment of UK-born rapper 21 Savage is an “absolute travesty” and he should be released “immediately”, Jay-Z has said.
Atlanta-based 21 Savage was arrested in the city on Sunday by US Immigration And Customs Enforcement (ICE) for allegedly overstaying his visa.
His legal team insist he is being wrongly held and suggested a recent song in which he criticised US immigration policy could have triggered his arrest.
Now, music mogul Jay-Z has thrown his weight behind the campaign to have 21 Savage released, repeating the assertion by the rapper’s legal team that a pending visa application should mean he is released from custody.
In a statement shared on his official Facebook page, Jay-Z said: “The arrest and detention of 21 Savage is an absolute travesty, his U visa petition has been pending for 4 years.
“In addition to being a successful recording artist, 21 deserves to be reunited with his children immediately, #Free21Savage.”
Jay-Z’s entertainment company, Roc Nation, has also hired New York-based immigration lawyer Alex Spiro to assist with the case.
Mr Spiro told US showbiz website TMZ the legal team will “not stop” until 21 Savage is released.
He also denied ICE’s claims that the rapper, who has three children who are US citizens, has a criminal record. Immigration authorities said on Sunday he was charged with drug offences in 2014, but his legal team say they were subsequently expunged from his record.
Mr Spiro added: “What we have here is someone who overstayed their visa with an application pending for four years – not a convicted criminal that needs to be detained and removed but, by all accounts a wonderful person, father, and entertainer who has a marijuana offence which was vacated and sealed.”
ICE says 26-year-old 21 Savage, whose real name is Sha Yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, is a British national who moved to the States aged 12 in 2005 and went on to overstay his visa.
His lawyers say his legal immigrant status expired in 2006 “through no fault of his own” and he should be eligible to fight his removal from the country in court.
The U visa he has applied for is for victims of crime, after his lawyers said he survived a shooting in 2013.
21 Savage is nominated for two Grammy Awards at this weekend’s ceremony, including record of the year for the chart-topping track Rockstar with fellow rapper Post Malone.
Artists including Cardi B, Meek Mill and Offset have called for his release.
ICE has been contacted for comment.